Coral Reef Atoll Assessment in the South China Sea

Coral reefs—ecosystems that are both ecologically important and sensitive—are disappearing rapidly due to direct human impacts such as overfishing and pollution. Given the remote and often inaccessible geography of reefs, these critical habitats can be difficult to monitor.

Research in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea is helping to change this. Using a combination of in-water collections and PlanetScope imagery, Greg Asner and team were able to map shallow water reef extent with > 90% accuracy. The resulting benthic habitat maps were used to examine the effects of military base expansion and dredging throughout the Spratly Islands.

Read the full paper, published in the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, here.


Asner et al. used (a) a mix of Planet Dove imagery, (b) in water photography surveys and (c) unsupervised classification to produce (d) a refined classification that was >90% effective at mapping shallow water coral reef.